Challenge to biodiversity by housing plan

PRESS RELEASE

West Highland Way could be ‘devastated’ by housing development plan

— Campaigners say protected species and tourism appeal under threat —
— Application would more than double the size of the village —

One of Scotland’s most famous walks faces being ‘devastated’ if a controversial housing development goes ahead on the banks of Loch Lomond.

Villagers in Balmaha are campaigning against the proposed development of 22 houses on the path of the world-famous West Highland Way, which overlooks the UK’s largest inland stretch of water – and one of the country’s most popular tourist destinations.

Now a community biodiversity group has been formed to protect the wild woodland site that’s been proposed for development by Rural Stirling Housing Association. They want to have the contentious development – which would more than double the population of the picturesque village – stopped in its tracks.

Professor Dino Jaroszynski is chairman of the Balmaha Biodiversity Community Action (BBCA) group, which is campaigning to protect the wilderness walkers flock from all over the world to see.

He said: “The ancient woodland in Balmaha is extremely valuable, not just as one of the jewels in the crown of the West Highland Way, but as a genuine environmental concern. We’re planning to protect this area with a giant biodiversity project, similar to that in Ben Lawers.

“Several rare and protected species can be found on the land; otters nest there as do red squirrel, we have a healthy colony of endangered slow-worms – all of which are protected.

“Building these houses will destroy this precious habitat and ruin what is recognised by the Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park as one of the main tourist draws to the area.

“If you start building houses on greenbelt land on the shore of Loch Lomond, you set a precedent and open the door to several similar developments. It inconceivable this could happen, never mind in heart of one of Scotland’s most well-visited National Parks.”

Professor Jaroszynski is urging rapid action from visitors to the area to protect the woodland, with only days left for people to have their say on the proposed development, with comments to be lodged with Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park Board by February 3.

He said: “The developer gave only days’ notice for a community consultation event on December 13, before submitting a planning application on December 23 – giving the community and its visitors precious little time to respond.

“This development shouldn’t get in by the back door. While we appreciate there is a need for some affordable housing in the area, it should not put the jewel in Scotland’s tourism crown at risk.

“The late and much-respected Tom Weir spent much of professional career shouting about the joy of the rural and dispersed area of Loch Lomond and Balmaha – I’m sure he’d be turning in his grave at such a proposal.”

The village of Balmaha recently featured on the ITV show Britain’s Best Walks, with host Julia Bradbury praising the biodiversity of the area and describing the Loch-side stretch of Loch Lomond as one of her favourite in the UK.

Anyone wishing to comment on the application should email planning@lochlomond-trossachs.org quoting reference number: 2016/0399/DET.

For more information on BBCA, visit the website at bbca.scot.

ENDS 25 January 2017

Notes to Editors:
The following protected species have been recorded living in the Ancient Woodland at Balmaha:

  • European Otter
  • Red Squirrel
  • Slow Worm
  • Adder
  • Wood Warblers
  • Woodcock
  • White Script Lichen

In addition about 20 different species of trees have been recorded on the site

Balmaha Plantation 1. Dec. 2016 008